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Lewis eyes honor at Ochoa Invitational

GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AFP) –

Stacy Lewis, pictured in September

Stacy Lewis, pictured in September 2012, will be trying to become the first American since 1994 to wrap up LPGA Player of the Year honors when the Lorena Ochoa Invitational tees off on Thursday.

Stacy Lewis will be trying to become the first American since 1994 to wrap up LPGA Player of the Year honors when the Lorena Ochoa Invitational tees off on Thursday.

Lewis can clinch the points-based award with a finish of eighth or better in the tournament, in which host Lorena Ochoa will be making her first LPGA Tour start since 2010.

Lewis has 214 points, 58 more than South Korean Inbee Park, with two more tournaments remaining this season.

Lewis put herself on the brink of claiming the award with a victory in the Mizuno Classic last week. The last US golfer named the LPGA Player of the Year was Beth Daniel in 1994.

“Beth Daniel … told me that she would love for me to win that award so they can stop talking about her,” Lewis said.

Mexico’s Ochoa, who has been focusing on raising a family and other interests since her retirement, had a stranglehold on Player of the Year from 2006-2009.

She has won 27 times in her LPGA Tour career, including six times in 2008, when she won her final major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Her return to the course this week will delight her home fans, but the race for season-ending honors — not just Player of the Year — will be in the spotlight.

Park and Lewis are also in contention for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, along with South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu and Nao Yeon Choi.

South Korean Jiyai Shin was atop the standings, but she isn’t entered in this week’s event and won’t finish the season with the minimum 70 rounds played to be eligible.

Lewis is also closing in on Taiwanese star Yani Tseng‘s world number one ranking.

Scotland’s Catriona Matthew returns to defend the title she won last year, when she won by four strokes over Anna Nordqvist and I.K. Kim.

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